Grace Cavalieri


Grace Cavalieri


Help Me Here  

What is the poem that will finish my life?
A woman who loves her work goes
yes it is true from kiss to kiss yet

I’m just coming in from the moon,
That’s why words change my reality
They  sway—they turn—

They wind up in Heaven—
That’s how the mind works,
And look at all the people here.

How can I manage them?
Maybe they can wait where the sky meets the sea
And one day (one by one) have a drink with me.

I don’t know how else I can handle it.
Beyond time, so many of them,
The accumulation of the dead,

Each in a pale gray suit—
Those we had the best with—
Waiting in the great unknown to share again—

Even if happily addicted to their oyster colored sky,
Do they hear my words waiting for me?
It’s too early in the poem to say.



Making Meaning

After his brain stormed, alone
with blood on the snow, let’s
be reckless—having a shadow,
move through the flower.
We can do anything to make art.
Call it vanity or transparency
yet glitter and enigma in the
soul are practical as water
and just as useful. Why
debate the struggle of blossom
and field or how he
left and looked back—it’s
a strategy named pattern
or trance. I don’t know what
we call struggle but it
spirals down, doesn’t it,
slamming vision into waters.
At the same time, I was once
calm with love and its
torment—its sun—the
widening pool,
the humming of it. Listen I’ve known
cold branches and nights
when I read alone in the dark.
There’s no shame in
wanting unless it’s having
without heart, and not knowing.
Look. The Cardinal. The last leaf.





My little sister and I weren’t supposed to go there,
Cadwalder Park, not alone anyway,
but there was nothing to do that day, so we packed a
picnic of marshmallow and boloney sandwiches
and quietly went for a walk. “We’ll be right back.”
The park was empty but for squirrels brushing
over leaves toward their trees  
where we squinted through sun to see the man
standing. He unbuckled his coat and rubbed against
the bark. We‘d never seen such a thing
and winced from the sight, frozen, as he came
toward us. That’s when I grabbed her small hand
squeezing her knuckles into my palm
so hard she screamed
running down the towpath,
we looked behind, but there he was so close.
Go faster my sister’s feet never touched the ground till we
climbed the hill of a garden and the man with the rake
went out after him while we ran all the way home
without looking back.  That night we were
silent at supper. That night we said we’d rather not go out
trick-or-treating. We said our stomachs hurt. Maybe we were sick.



Just This

If I had long hair
And it were braided in one thick braid in the back
And all of a sudden it started to come undone,
Now that he’s gone
Who would untangle it and comb it smooth?


Taking Back

If one day you wake and wonder if love is just a wound of your own making
Nowhere in sight—
A dying flower left in a dark shed—
Then look back to see the pieces you’ve left behind
Where the wingless bird was born
And another, the child thrown by his mother
The eyes of a deer colliding with a car
The young boy arrested and abused
The little girl bullied on a dusty playground
A plant delivered to the soldier with one arm
The flies on the eyes of Africa
The gun that killed your sister hidden in the weeds by the water
Take them back. All the slivers. One by one, until the heart is whole,
Strong enough to do its important work.


 Grace Cavalieri is an Italian American writer and host of the radio program The Poet and the Poem, presented by the Library of Congress through National Public Radio. She is the author of numerous collections of poetry, including Poems: New and Selected (1994), Pinecrest Rest Haven (1998), and Greatest Hits, 1975–2000 (2002). Her collection What I Would Do for Love: Poems in the Voice of Mary Wollstonecraft (2004) was awarded the Patterson Poetry Prize; Water on the Sun (2006) won the Bordighera Poetry Prize. Further collections include Anna Nicole: Poems (2008) and Sounds Like Something I Would Say (2010).